Growing Pumpkins at Home
Pumpkins are only remembered at Halloween, but they are a great vegetable that can be roasted or made into soups and pies. If you are trying to get children involved with gardening, pumpkins are a great idea for that too.
Why not involve the children by growing pumpkins in time to harvest and carve when Halloween comes around?
Pumpkins like to grow in areas that get full sun and are sheltered from the wind. They like well drained soil with organic matter, so mix some organic compost or manure into your soil a couple of weeks before planting for the best results. Turn the soil over and mix in the organic matter to about the depth of a spade.
Pumpkins like a nice warm temperature so it is best to start them off inside if possible. Good varieties of pumpkin to try are the ‘Becky’ pumpkin which is a classic Halloween Pumpkin perfect for carving, a ‘Jack Be Little’ pumpkin which is a small variety that can be held in one hand and make great decorations, or if you have lots of space maybe try and grow a big ‘Hundredweight’ pumpkin!
Step 1: Planting
Start your pumpkins off in 7.5cm pots filled with compost. Plant the seeds on their side around 2.5cm below the surface. Do this around April/May.
Step 2: Give Em' Some Sun
Place the pots on a warm, sunny window ledge. Once they start to get going and the roots show at the bottom of the pot, transfer them to a larger 12.5cm pot.
Step 3: Give Them Time
Leave the plants inside for around four weeks at which point they should be strong enough to move outside.
Step 4: Acclimatisation
Before planting outside, acclimatise your pumpkins to the outdoor temperature gradually the week before by placing the pots outside during the daytime, and for a couple of nights.
Step 5: Re-Homing Your Seedlings
Your seedlings will now be ready to move to their permanent outside home. Make a mound in your prepared soil around 15cm high and sow the seedlings around 2.5cm below the surface, leaving around 2-3m between plants depending on the pumpkin variety.
- Mulch the soil surface by adding organic matter to keep the soil fertile and help to protect the seedlings.
- The deep roots mean that pumpkins don’t need watering too often, but in particularly dry periods give them a helping hand with some water.
- Remove some fruits before they start to develop fully so that the plants energy is concentrated on growing two or three larger pumpkins.
- Pumpkins don’t like waterlogging as it can cause them to rot. As the fruits get bigger you can lift them up slightly and sit them on a wooden board to protect them from this.
Pumpkins should be left on the plant for as long as possible, the skin will start to harden and the fruit will start to crack off near the stem. At this point they are ready to harvest, and it is important to harvest them before the first frost of the winter. Harvest the pumpkins by cutting them near the stem, leaving a few inches of the stem on the pumpkin itself.
Whether you have grown your pumpkins to carve for Halloween decorations, or to make a tasty soup or pie, you will be proud of your home grown pumpkins. Children will love getting involved and watching the pumpkins grow bigger and bigger and then they can carve their very own pumpkin!